Birth Control Is For Every Body
Imagine you’re watching a person going through their morning routine. After rolling out of bed, they sleepily walk over to the kitchen and start the coffee pot. While the coffee brews, they fill a glass of water and use it to wash down a few pills: a daily probiotic, a multivitamin, and a birth control pill. The coffee finishes brewing, and they pour themselves a steaming mug, topped with a bit of whatever milk alternative looked interesting at the grocery store this week.
Now, tell us: what did that person look like?
Birth control is for every body.
Based on the mention of birth control in the pills our hypothetical protagonist took, you might assume the person taking birth control was a cisgender female. Maybe you took it one step further and assumed it was a cisgender female in a heterosexual relationship—after all, gay or queer people wouldn’t have a need for preventing pregnancy, right?
Not exactly. Most people may assume that cisgender females are the only oral contraceptive users, but birth control helps a much wider swath of the population. And while we’ve mentioned it here before, it bears repeating: birth control is *not* just for preventing pregnancy. In fact, birth control can be used to help manage symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. Plus, it can also be used to help reduce acne.
Want to learn more? Here, we’ll highlight the different uses of birth control and the different kinds of people that use birth control.
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Who can take birth control?
Birth control: it’s not just for heterosexual cis women. Let’s talk about who else often takes birth control pills, and why.
Transgender and nonbinary people. Many transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) people experience gender dysphoria, a.k.a. an intense form of distress that comes when your inner gender doesn’t match your physical body, or the way that others perceive you. While talk therapy, gender affirming clothing, hormone therapy, and other options can help reduce gender dysphoria, those options aren’t always easily accessible.
That’s where birth control comes in. Since menstruation and unplanned pregnancy could worsen gender dysphoria, taking an oral contraceptive is one way for TGNB people to affirm their gender and avoid triggering dysphoria by regulating or entirely stopping menstruation.
And heads up: contrary to popular belief, hormonal birth control is not a replacement for gender-affirming hormone therapy, nor is gender-affirming hormone therapy an effective form of contraception. The estrogen that’s in birth control is a different form and dosage than what’s prescribed to transgender women. Plus, trans women also usually get an anti-androgen, which is a testosterone blocker. So while it may be tempting to ask for a birth control prescription and think that you’re hacking hormone therapy, working with your doctor to determine the right doses of estrogen and anti-androgen will be a much safer, more effective way to affirm your gender.
Basically, you can likely use birth control to prevent pregnancy and prevent periods. However, birth control isn’t a substitution for hormone replacement therapy, and birth control can’t be used to prevent pregnancy at the same time you’re doing hormone replacement therapy. As always, talk to your doctor about your specific circumstance and what kind of support you need.
Regardless of your specific situation, sexually active individuals who don’t want to get pregnant or cause pregnancy in others should talk to their doctors about how best to prevent pregnancy.
Finally, it’s important to note that gender expression and affirmation is incredibly unique to each individual. While one person may feel totally fine taking the pill, another might find the process a painful daily reminder of dysphoria. Work with a gender-affirming doctor (and therapist, if possible) to find a birth control method that won’t add any trauma to your life.
People in LGBTQIA+ relationships. Even if you’re not having penetrative penis-in-vagina sex, you can still take birth control. We’ll go into this more in the next section, but taking the pill can help reduce symptoms of PMS, endometriosis, PCOS, and more. Even if it feels “silly” to be on birth control in a non-heterosexual relationship, know that it’s not—you’re just making the best choice for your health with the resources you have available.
What are the different uses of birth control?
Sure, oral contraceptives are designed for the main purpose of preventing pregnancy (and when used perfectly, birth control is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy). However, the hormones encapsulated in an oral contraceptive have tons of secondary benefits that can help address a variety of medical issues. For example…
Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a painful inflammatory disorder in which tissue similar to the kind that typically lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus. There’s no cure for endometriosis, but many doctors will prescribe hormonal contraception to help manage your symptoms. Since hormonal BC regulates the body’s hormonal cycle, the pill makes periods easier to manage and often lessens the severity of typical period side effects. The progestin-only pills in particular can inhibit endometrial growth, which makes it less likely that you’ll experience symptoms.
Polycystic ovary syndrome. Also known as PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormone imbalance disorder that often causes cysts on the ovaries, higher levels of androgen, and irregular or missed periods. The pill contains estrogen and progestin, and adding these hormones to your system can help restore balance (and relieve those hormone-related symptoms).
Acne. Isn’t it fun when you’re well past your teenage years, but you’re still getting the kind of acne that plagued you in high school? (*sarcasm voice*) Acne is highly susceptible to the natural hormonal shifts in your body, and zits tend to pop up when there’s a hormone imbalance (especially when your androgen levels are higher than your estrogen levels). Hormonal birth control supplies a daily dose of estrogen (or progesterone), which regulates the hormonal cycle and prevents those pesky pimples. Because of that, many people (of all ages) turn to birth control for acne treatment.
Painful cramps. When your monthly flow is accompanied by severe pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, or dizziness, birth control might be a helpful way to reduce those symptoms. This type of period-associated pain is known as dysmenorrhea, and birth control pills are thought to reduce your levels of prostaglandins (natural chemicals that make the muscles and blood vessels of the uterus contract). That reduction means less blood flow and less cramping. Plus, birth control prevents ovulation, thus preventing any cramping related to that process.
So, there you have it. Birth control is for everybody and every body that needs it, regardless of gender, sexuality, or whatever was stopping you from seeking it out before. If you think birth control might help you take control of your reproductive health, our team at SimpleHealth makes it easy to consult with a doctor and prescribe the birth control method that’s right for you.
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